Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why NOT to shoot RAW

Many advanced photographers love shooting in RAW on digital SLRs, for obvious benefits. Many photography articles have been written and much has been said on why shooting RAW is ideal, chiefly for image quality and headroom for digital manipulation.

However, let me play devil's advocate and offer you some reasons why RAW might NOT be the ideal choice for you.

1) RAW files are huge. While JPGs are typically under 5MB, RAW files are usually 10-20MB in size. This means that you will need larger capacity memory cards and computer disk space. Also, this implies that your camera will take more time to write these files to the card than JPGs. If you are shooting a big event, or worse still on a long holiday, that could mean a few hundred RAW files and a lot a lot of space is required to store them.

2) Processing RAW files are more time-consuming than JPGs. Let's face it: post-processing is a tedious chore and a waste of our precious time. Having to process the RAW file in a RAW converter needs effort, skill and the technological know-how. On the other hand, JPGs are "ready-to-use" images out of the camera with sharpening, saturation, noise reduction and so forth already applied for you. Also, processing RAW files require a fast computer, whereas even the slowest laptop (i.e. netbooks) can open JPGs with ease.

3) JPG is a universally compatible file format, whereas reading the RAW file requires special software, such as Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop or Adobe Bridge. Also, if you use software by Adobe, Apple or others, you may have to wait for some time (maybe a month?) until there is an update which supports your camera. Thus, for archiving purposes, JPG is a better format as you can be sure it will be supported long into the future.

Generally, I only shoot in RAW when doing serious photography. For everything else, JPGs will suffice... such as snapshots, events coverage, birthday parties, random shots etc.

The point I am trying to make here is that you should know when shooting RAW is appropriate, and when it might be over-kill.

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